“In Israel, we have maritime domain blindness,” said Shaul Chorev, a retired Rear Admiral in the Israeli Navy who is now head of the Maritime Policy and Strategy Research Center at Haifa University. “Our activities are always focused on thwarting terrorist activities, but that is not the whole picture of marine security.”

Admiral Chorev said that to prevent future oil spills from reaching the coast, Israel would need to invest not only in satellites and other tracking equipment, but also hire a government agency clearly responsible for monitoring and containing the coast for ecological disasters.

Environmental activists warned that while the damage caused by the spill was significant, a leak from one of the natural gas rigs off Israel’s coast could be even more devastating. Israel has invested heavily in developing natural gas fields off its coast and started exporting gas to Egypt in late 2019.

“This should be a wake-up call,” said Maya Jacobs, the director of Zalul, an organization that works to conserve water in and around Israel that is heavily dependent on desalinated water. “We must immediately step up the monitoring of the drilling rigs and switch to the use of renewable energies.”

In Lebanon, the prime minister’s office said the tar had reached the country’s south coast. It was also alleged that the oil spill came from an Israeli ship, but provided no evidence to support the claim.

Yasser al-Shanti, the head of the Gaza Water Authority, said no oil had reached Gaza’s beaches, but officials are following the situation.

Moshiko Saadi, an environmental activist who helped clean up a beach in northern Israel on Tuesday, said the ubiquity of tar “broke his heart”.

“So many people clean and fill bag after bag quickly,” said Mr Saadi. “But then you look up and see that there are still huge amounts everywhere.” You feel helpless. “

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